Along the banks of the Sarawak River, on the western part of the island of Borneo, lies the city of Kuching, capital of the state of Sarawak. It was there, from 14 to 16 September, that 650 youth, inspired by Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for a world founded on justice and unity, gathered to consult on the ways in which they can contribute to the development of their communities.
Participants wearing beautiful traditional attire formally ushered Continental Counsellors Lori McLaughlin Noguchi and Ircham Hadi Sujadmiko—representatives of the Universal House of Justice—into the main hall of the conference venue. After a moving devotional programme, and a welcome to all the conference participants by region, the song Belia Harapan Dunia (Youth, Hope of the World), which was composed especially for the gathering, was shared:
Among the themes explored by conference participants was the concept of living a coherent life that is seeing family, service, and education as elements of a whole rather than separate parts. One girl from Kota Samarahan reflected on the centrality of service in her life and how it contributes to coherence. She recognized that she had previously understood it was impossible to be engaged in service activities while simultaneously pursuing her studies. However, since beginning to collaborate with younger youth in her neighbourhood in service to the community, she realized that, far from detracting from her studies, what she was learning through her efforts to serve others was also applicable to her university courses and had helped to strengthen all areas of her life.
“I’ve realized that it’s my responsibility to serve my community. Although I’m still learning how to increase my own spiritual capacity, I’ve learnedit’s possible to involve and accompany those who need support so that together, we can learn and grow.”
A participant at the conference
As the youth reflected on community building and how their generation can work with others in the process, one said: “I’ve realized that it is my responsibility to assist those younger than me and as I collaborate with people who are also making an effort to serve our community, we will grow and learn together.”
The evening plenary sessions included artistic presentations gleaned from the day’s consultations and conveyed the joy and excitement of the participants. The Javanese dance, Orang Ulu dance, songs, and local traditional musical instruments such as the beduk, were among the sights and sounds filling the hall as the youth, in an uplifting and celebratory atmosphere, found creative ways to share their insights and ideas with one another.
Those gathered watched Frontiers of Learning, a documentary featuring the efforts of four communities around the world to contribute to the advancement of their neighbourhoods. One participant noted that the film helped her understand that there are many people who wish to participate in building a new society and that by working together, we can nurture an environment in which our abilities and capacities grow and contribute to the collective well-being of all.
The imperative of contributing to creating environments in which those younger than themselves can spiritually prepare for the world they will inherit was a theme that shaped the vision and understanding of the conference participants. Their renewed purpose and clarity of mission left them with an indelible sense of hope, and as the final day drew to a close, it was clear that the insights gained from their study and discussions would reinforce a process that goes well beyond the three days of their gathering. Instead, it is a vision for the ongoing transformation of their society through simple practical steps.
Continental Counsellors Lori Noguchi and Ircham Sujadmiko, representing the Universal House of Justice, are warmly greeted as they arrive at the conference
Devotional periods at the beginning of each session assist in creating an atmosphere of reverence
Discussions began in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore concepts in light of their local realities
Youth work together on a creative presentation of the themes being studied
Friends shared songs and learned new ones during the breaks between sessions
A group of youth perform a traditional dance during one of the plenary gatherings
Youth listen attentively as their friends share ideas in their groups
Participants discussed how they can contribute to the well-being of their communities
Portions of the film Frontiers of Learning were shown during an evening session
The conference was an opportunity for the participants to study and reflect about the contribution they can make to the spiritual and social development of their communities
Music and other arts were used to articulate the concepts during several of the sessions
One group sang songs accompanied by the beduk, guitar, buluh, tamborine, and shakers made from recycled bottles